Pattinson outlines his Baggy Green ambition

Australia speedster sets his sights on the 2019 Ashes tour as his ultimate goal following successful spine-strenghtening surgery

Victoria fast bowler James Pattinson has declared the 2019 Ashes is his "real goal" as he takes the first steps towards a comeback from major back surgery.

Pattinson suffered a fifth back stress fracture last winter just before Australia's Test tour of Bangladesh, one that has sidelined him for the entire 2017-18 season.

But after a successful operation in New Zealand that saw metal pins inserted and his troublesome L4 vertebrae strengthened with wire, Pattinson is returning to the gym just as Cricket Victoria open their new high-performance facility at Junction Oval.

He comes with a new outlook on the game, and a long-term goal in mind.

Pattinson's form last winter in England, where he starred for Nottinghamshire with bat and ball, had pundits salivating at the prospect of Australia unleashing the fast-bowling equivalent of the four horsemen of the apocalypse: Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Pattinson.

Luckless Pattinson reveals why his fire still burns

But the latest back injury saw Pattinson disappear from the spotlight, and he admits to being stung every time he hears of Australia's "Big Three" fast bowlers.

"You read (the media) and it says the 'three seamers' … I want to be in with them. Hopefully one day I can get on a tour and all four of us can play together," Pattinson said on commentary for Cricket Network's live stream of Victoria's JLT Sheffield Shield match with NSW at Junction Oval.

"The 2019 Ashes is my real goal, everything from now is getting right for that and putting performances together to get selected for that. That's the real big one.

"The messages I've been getting from Cricket Australia are they want me to try and get ready for that.

Luckless Pattinson reveals why his fire still burns

"Most of my planning and the games I play over the coming (2018-19) summer will be around getting ready for that. It's a long way away, but the goal is there."

While Pattinson has one eye on the horizon that looms some 16 months into the future, his more immediate milestones are slowing getting ticked off.

Last week he returned to New Zealand to see his back surgeon, and came away buoyed by the results of scans that give him confidence he will be able to one day add to his 17 Tests. 

"I had a scan and everything looked like it was good, we couldn't see any fracture lines anymore so everything is on the right track," Pattinson said.

The 27-year-old is now back in the gym doing cardio and fitness work, and is on track to have a full regular pre-season with Victoria, something that he hasn't been able to do for the past several years.

March 2017: Pattinson rips through Bulls in Shield

And coming to terms with the limitations of his back, he's keen to reinvent himself as an allrounder, something in the mould of what Mitch Marsh has done in recent months.

"A big emphasis for me is trying to improve my batting as much as possible, so when I do need a rest (from bowling loads) maybe I can play as allrounder rather than totally miss the game … maybe just back off the overs and bat at six or seven for Victoria," Pattinson said.

"That's a goal of mine to improve my batting to get it to that position.

"With Mitch Marsh going so well I think he's got that No.6 spot locked up (for Australia).

"But I've always loved batting, almost as much as my bowling. And there's an opportunity to take my batting that little bit higher and strive for that six or seven spot for Victoria.

Pattinson posts match-turning half-century

"If I can make runs there then who knows what will happen, I'm just trying to improve and open up opportunities."

Pattinson has been in close contact with former New Zealand international Shane Bond, the first ever bowler to have the same procedure Pattinson has now undergone, and received similar encouragement from another Kiwi in Corey Anderson who has also come through the procedure.

"They both said the first two months back bowling, it felt like there was a bit of concrete stuck in their back. So I think I'm going to go through those sort of things, but that's part and parcel of it," Pattinson said.

"He (Bond) says it worked, it kept him on the park for longer, and lots of others have gone through the same thing and the success rate is pretty good.

"Hopefully, fingers crossed it was the right decision to prolong my career."

Qantas tour of South Africa

South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.

Warm-up match: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights

First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5

Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13

Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26

Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3